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Oakeshott as Conservative

The topic of Oakeshott’s conservatism is a contentious one, as Robert Devigne shows in his essay “Oakeshott as Conservative.” Using Burke as a touchstone, Devigne demonstrates that Oakeshott’s conservatism is complex and shifts over time. In his essays from the late 1940s and early 1950s, Oakeshott displays a Burkean antipathy toward rationalism and appreciation for…

Oakeshott and Hobbes

Oakeshott’s interpretation of Hobbes is the central subject of Noel Malcolm’s essay “Oakeshott and Hobbes.” Malcolm notices that there seems to be a discrepancy between Oakeshott’s hostility to rationalism, on the one hand, and his admiration for Hobbes, an archetypal rationalist if ever there was one, on the other. In the first instance, Oakeshott seems…

The Religious Sensibility of Michael Oakeshott

The theme of the unremitting nature of practical life also appears in Elizabeth Corey’s essay “The Religious Sensibility of Michael Oakeshott.” Drawing on Oakeshott’s two essays on the Tower of Babel to flesh out his critique of the perfectionism and obsession with achievement that vitiate modern life, Corey shows how Oakeshott conceived of religion as…

Michael Oakeshott’s Philosophy of History

Apart from his contributions to political philosophy, Oakeshott is perhaps best known for his contributions to the philosophy of history. Over the course of fifty years, from the important chapter on historical experience in Experience and Its Modes to the three essays on history in On History, Oakeshott applied himself to investigating the nature and…

Philosophy and Its Moods: Oakeshott on the Practice of Philosophy

In “Philosophy and Its Moods: Oakeshott on the Practice of Philosophy,” Kenneth McIntyre continues the discussion of Oakeshott’s conception of philosophy begun by Boucher but takes a somewhat different view. Though he admits that Oakeshott’s conception of philosophy as a fundamentally skeptical activity devoted to relentless interrogation of the conditions of human understanding remains unchanged…

The Victim of Thought: The Idealist Inheritance

In “The Victim of Thought: The Idealist Inheritance,” David Boucher examines the relationship of this theory of knowledge or experience to philosophical—and especially British—idealism. He makes two fundamental points about this relationship. First, he argues that although idealism was on the wane in Britain the 1920s and 1930s, Oakeshott’s brand of idealism was hardly as…

The Pursuit of Intimacy, or Rationalism in Love

What about his private, intimate life? This brings us to the first essay in this volume, Robert Grant’s “The Pursuit of Intimacy, or Rationalism in Love.” As the title suggests, this essay is concerned with Oakeshott’s love life, which he considered to be not merely peripheral but in many ways the main business of his…